Al Jazeera Travel Show Explores World Cities Through Their Street Food

The Japan­ese have a word for it: kuidaore, “to eat one­self bank­rupt.” This has risen to some com­bi­na­tion of tra­di­tion and aspi­ra­tion in Osa­ka, Japan’s sec­ond-largest city, a for­mer mer­chant enclave once referred to as the coun­try’s “kitchen.” You can see exact­ly what emp­ties Osakan bank accounts on Al Jazeera Eng­lish’s series Street Food. Its episode on the city (part one, part two), embed­ded above, seeks out the stands that most effi­cient­ly cater to the cit­i­zen­ry’s char­ac­ter­is­tic busy­ness, the source of the fresh­est sushi around, the bar­be­cue coun­ters of Kore­atown, the poi­so­nous­ly-liv­ered fugu fish, the ide­al­ly con­tro­ver­sial dish that is whale meat, and a range of food writ­ers and crit­ics to lay down some culi­nary insight. The pro­gram fin­ish­es its jour­ney with one vis­it to a culi­nary acad­e­my and anoth­er to the poor­er side of this Japan­ese metrop­o­lis. Being a Japa­neese metrop­o­lis with more pover­ty than most but also one a greater love of eat­ing than most, Osa­ka has pro­duced street food even among its street peo­ple.

There you have the basic form of a Street Food broad­cast, each of which takes on a dif­fer­ent world city, all of which oper­ate under the the­o­ry that the best path into a cul­ture runs through its alleys most dense with comestible com­merce. In the episode just above (part onepart two), Mon­tre­al’s meet­ing of Eng­lish and French sen­si­bil­i­ties, a slight­ly uneasy coex­is­tence in the best of times, turns into an all-out ide­o­log­i­cal con­flict on the sub­ject of how to eat. One par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant skir­mish occurs over pou­tine, the French fry, cheese curd, and gravy dish essen­tial to any inves­ti­ga­tion of Mon­tre­al cui­sine. In the episode below (part onepart two), we see the ele­ments of Span­ish and Andean eat­ing final­ly con­verg­ing on the streets of Lima — aid­ed, in a big way, by fla­vors brought in by the Peru’s many immi­grants from Asian. Admit­ted­ly, the con­ver­gence isn’t com­plete, not will it be until Limeños not of native descent come to enjoy the city’s most pop­u­lar item of street food, with 65 mil­lion eat­en every year: the guinea pig.

All episodes of Al Jazeera Eng­lish’s Street Food on YouTube:

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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